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The tracks of Hillary’s tears

By Alice Bradley

I have to confess that whenever I consider writing about the presidential campaign, I get nervous. I’m worried that my ignorance will show itself, that I’ll get some detail terribly wrong and my readers will sniff, “Excuse me, Ms. Bradley, but if you read a newspaper or knew how to turn on a television you’d know that Iowa is right smack in the middle of the United States, and not ‘floating on an oil slick somewhere in the Caspian Sea.’ Also, Iowa’s main crop is corn, not syphilis.” Well, excuse me, Ms. I Read Stuff to Learn, but I was testing you and also I turn on my television like everyone else, by jabbing at the magic box with my jabbing stick.
So then when I worry about my ignorance, I read too much, and I suffer Pundit Overload and I think, does the world need one more opinion? Hey, readers: I, like so many others, believe that Kucinich is unfairly marginalized. And hey, Fred Thompson, you know what you are? Jowly and, for an actor, strangely uncharismatic! I said it first!
On the other hand, I don’t think you need me to cover another study on, say, women being different than men, or ice cream being delicious. We are, and it is, and…and heck, let’s talk elections!
Let’s start with a topic I know something about, which is crying. As a well-known crybaby, I’m sensitive about people being made fun of for crying. It makes me cry, frankly. Most things can start up the ol’ waterworks. Watching other people cry often makes me well up.
And yet Hillary tearing up on the campaign trail pretty much left me cold.
Much as I want to be, I’m not a Hillary supporter. I want to like her. I actually think she’s pretty likable, despite the media informing us that she’s a shrill harridan. She’s a fellow Wellesley alum, and for that reason alone—much less the whole woman thing—I feel that I’m letting down my sisters. But in order to get where she is, she headed straight for the political center, and that’s not a place I want my candidate to be. I’m over here on the left, you see; in my perfect world, Kucinich would get the glory and the respect, and Huckabee would be roundly mocked for heavy reliance on Chuck Norris. Hillary is just too beholden to corporate interests for my comfort. She recently proved that she’s not above fear-mongering, either; she recently all but said that a vote for Obama would be a vote for an Al-Qaeda attack, and it turned my stomach. We’ve had enough of that for the past eight years, thank you.
Like so many others, I was unnerved by the pile-on she suffered after her loss in Iowa, the immense glee that pundits everywhere expressed in her third place finish. But after watching the infamous Video of Tears, in which she’s asked how she does it (actually, the full question included the question, “who does your hair?” but that part seems to have been cut out of all the video clips) and she lets down a little of that steely demeanor, the affinity I had begun to feel for her slipped away. Was it because I thought it was a calculated move? Sort of. I think her emotions got the better of her for a moment, and instead of reeling them back in she realized she could use them to her advantage. Look at how carefully she releases a hint of tears. Her eyes glisten, but her voice barely cracks. The lady’s in control.
Mostly, though, it’s why she’s crying. I’m going to echo Maureen Dowd, and I never thought I’d say that: her tears are borne of self-pity. Is she crying for the death toll in Iraq? For the uninsured? Because those tears, I could get behind. No, she’s crying for her lost opportunity. That’s the moment she chose to show her vulnerable side. When her campaign was at stake.
Now, the initial uproar after the footage was aired over a woman “losing control” and “breaking down” was ludicrous; the ideas that tears are weak or feminine is offensive and silly. Edwards climbing on the bandwagon to declare that “I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business” won him no points with me. (And yes, I know that he admits before saying this that he hadn’t seen the footage of Hillary, but please. He heard that she had shown some emotion, and he jumped on that as a moment of weakness.)
But the notion that Hillary’s display somehow humanizes her doesn’t wash for me, either. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post (in the most treacly op-ed I have read in a long time) called Hillary’s emotional moment “maternal,” and argued she did not cry for herself but for “the country.” If you say so, Richard, but just like with any narcissistic parent, for Hillary it’s the same thing. She weeps for us, stupid irresponsible us, who might make the wrong choice by not realizing how much we need her. That’s the sort of mother who will also tell us anything she wants to because she knows what’s best, who’s not above manipulation for the greater good. And that mother, we don’t need.

Published January 11, 2008. Last updated May 10, 2010.
Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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  • Amy

    January 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Absolutely! I’ve been trying to articulate my feelings about the whole “crying games” all week and you just hit the nail on the head for me…EXACTLY. I am going to print this off and start reading it anyone that will listen (giving you full credit, of course).
    Thanks for this, you are not alone in your sentiments.

  • SuburbanCorrespondent

    January 11, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    What has Richard Cohen been smoking lately, anyway? His statement just goes to show you that people will believe what they want to believe about “their” candidate. That’s a whopper, though.
    You are correct in identifying Hillary as part of the left-wing intelligentsia who think they know what is best for everyone. And who can’t understand how their patronising attitudes antagonize the many voters who might be swayed to a more liberal agenda. She is, unfortunately, a divider, not a uniter; and what this country needs at this point is someone who can bridge the gap between the “blues” and the “reds,” rather than accentuate it.
    And I really don’t know who that is, yet.

  • Kevin

    January 11, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Awesome post.
    I agree with you on the opinion of Hillary. I wished it came across as sincere, but for me it didn’t. I thought the exact same thing as you when I first saw the clip of her tearing up. She showed that emotion for her, because she got beat in Iowa, not for us.
    I’m for Obama. I don’t care if he’s green in Washington, I simply believe he can motivate a country that right now needs motivation. He’ll surround himself with plenty of people that can advise him, which he will listen to. That is better than what we have right now.
    Thank you Ms. Bradley.

  • Matt

    January 11, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    You know, I was completely suspicious of that incident when I first heard of it. But after seeing it for the 3/4/5th (who knows) time, it seemed genuine to me. I think it’s easy to attribute the POV you put on it given the woman’s history, but, just in that moment, I got the impression that she was sincere and not just for her presumably lost cause. But that she really does feel a sense of duty and concern for her country. And whether you like her or not, or agree with her methods or not, her whole life has been in many ways an attempt to “do something” for her country. I urge you to look at that again and try not to think of who she is, just listen to what, and how, she says it.
    Who knows, maybe I just want to think the best of folks. Anyway, there is a pretty fair chance that you are going to have to decide whether to vote for her or a conservative Republican for President. Who you gonna call?

  • Matt

    January 11, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    From Ms Dowd’s 12/19/07 column (methinks there may be a theme emerging) –
    “Hillary doesn’t have to worry about her face. She has to worry about her mask. Back in the ’92 race, Clinton pollsters devised strategies to humanize her and make her seem more warm and maternal. Fifteen years later, her campaign is devising strategies to humanize her and make her seem more warm and maternal.
    The public still has no idea of what part of her is stage-managed and focus-grouped, and what part is legit. It’s pretty pathetic, at this stage of her career, that she has to wage a major offensive, by helicopter and Web testimonials, to make herself appear warm-blooded.”

  • BrooklynGirl

    January 11, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    But at a certain point, doesn’t every candidate think he/she knows better than us mere mortals? Isn’t that why they’re running in the first place?

  • Amy S.

    January 18, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Great post. While I was relieved to see that Hillary wasn’t a robot, I wasn’t quite taken with her “breakdown” either. Wasn’t quite sure why until I read this. You nailed it. Thanks!